A majority of businesses in the world fall under the category of “Small Businesses”. If you are a Small Business owner, with the lockdown currently in place and an emerging new market that seems quite unpredictable, it’s a good time to evaluate (or re-evaluate) the directions and choices regarding your business and strengthen your foundations for the future.

Running a business in the 21st century not only needs a deep knowledge of well-established business strategies but also adds the dimension of online and digital marketing practices. Businesses need to establish their presence not only in the real world but also online as potential customers often look up information about you on the internet before ever visiting your store.

The first in this 3 part blog series written with BluOne India explains the ideal scenarios and research that must be performed by those people who want to start a new small business with 5 or fewer employees or are still in the early stages of a recent small venture. BluOne India delivers smart solutions through health care revenue cycle management, user experiences, education, technology, branding, and marketing.

The first thing any business needs is a problem that their potential customers are facing, which they solve. This is called the Problem Finding approach. You either address an existing problem in the market (Like UBER addressed the waiting in the sun for cabs and rickshaws problem), or you create a problem that your solution fixes by doing existing things better (like the use of Cars and Bikes when going on foot or cycles is not exactly a problem, just a worse way of getting around).

The solution that your business presents to people has to, obviously, solve the given problem that you are addressing, and on top of that has to be User-Centric, meaning that the user should be able to use your product with a certain degree of ease (this is where terms like user experience and user interface come in). Seeing what things people care about is essential in solving their problem, for example, when it comes to taxi apps, people care about how long they need to wait for their driver, what their location is during the ride and how long it will take them to reach their destination. All 3 of these are readily viewable and constantly updated in all such apps.

Once the “Problem” and “Solution” have been identified, you need to know exactly who your target audience is. Detailed research of potential customers based on their geographies, income groups, gender, and professions allows you to create a “Consumer Persona” of a typical individual who would be using your product or service. Doing this lets you understand your ideal customer by listing out their:

  • Motivations
  • Goals
  • Vision
  • Personality Traits
  • Fears

Whether young or old, in India or the US, it is necessary to do the research and have such “Persona Templates” customized for all the different types of consumers who would be interested in your business. For example, you might think that advertising men’s products specifically to men might be the right strategy, but it leads to low sales for some businesses. Women are heads of households when it comes to making buying choices, and wives and girlfriends quite often buy men’s products for their partners. This is a section of your target audience you would miss out on if you didn’t do your research well enough when creating a “Consumer Persona”.

Most new businesses often get overconfident in saying that they don’t have direct competition, but are actually being very narrow in their research. If you don’t see much competition in your business, either the market for such a product doesn’t exist, or you have fallen short in your evaluation of the competition. (eg: Travel and Business industries these days don’t have much competition, but that is due to there not being any market for travel in this time of global lockdowns). London based food delivery app Deliveroo knew that they had competition, but on doing their research realized that there was a lack of quality food being delivered. By tying up with high end and well-known restaurants, they were able to get ahead of their competition.

The Jobs-To-Be-Done framework is for defining, categorizing, capturing, and organizing all your customers’ needs. Moreover, when using this framework, a complete set of “need statements” can be captured in days — rather than months — and the statements themselves are valid for years — rather than quickly becoming obsolete. It focuses on what the customers want to accomplish rather than what they want to purchase. By taking the example of Photoshop vs Instagram, while these are both photo editing software, we see that the “Job To Be Done” is different for each. While Photoshop is for professional editing of high-resolution photos for sharing on websites or for print, Instagram is for sharing beautiful pictures with your friends on a daily basis.

Now that your business seems more feasible, developing core values for yourself is the ideal next step for your institution. Whether it be about helping the environment, honesty, quality, or any other qualifying message, it has to be set in stone and is the basis on which your company ethos exists. (eg: Companies with a “Profits above Costs” core value will operate by using predatory pricing, aggressive marketing, hiring competition and then shutting them down, while a company with honesty as its core value will not go in for a transaction or deal that hypothetically involves bribing a minister).

Here are Adidas’ core values to illustrate how they define a company:

  • Purpose: Through sport, we have the power to change lives.
  • Mission: To be the best sports company in the world.
  • A deeper dive: “Athletes will not settle for average. And neither do we. We have a clear mission: To be the best sports company in the world. Every day, we come to work to create and sell the best sports and fitness products in the world, and to offer the best service and consumer experience—and to do it all in a sustainable way. To successfully do that, we focus entirely on our authentic sports brands as they connect and engage with our consumers.”

Every business needs a brand name. Brand names need to follow some key guidelines like being easy to search, having an available domain name, no more than 2 syllables in the name, and being easy to remember and relate with the product. Eg: Facebook, Twitter, Tesla, Nike, Yahoo.

We suggest you don’t invest too heavily in a logo at this stage, and perhaps even just use the company name in a specific font as the logo. The primary focus should be on the solution itself at this stage instead of the graphics around it. As things develop, you can bring in those logo changes at a later point.

Now all that’s left to do is to use all the information that you have gathers, and informed by it, create the “Minimum Valuable Product” It is the most stripped-down version of your product that can be offered to your customers faster than a fully-featured version, but it must also be able to satisfy your first adopters. This will allow you to test how you do in the market you have defined for yourself, reaching your specific target audience while using strategies best suited to work against your competition.

In part 2, we shall look at Digital Marketing Strategies and what you can do to get more customers online.

BluOne India explains the ideal scenarios and research that must be performed by those in the early stages of a small venture. Learn more about best strategies for new businesses. Originally hosted at Tejee’s studio.